I love all kinds of Asian food. Well, okay, I love all kinds of food, period, but Asian food has a sort of special quality. The fresh ingredients, the mysterious sauces, the careful construction- it all makes the food seem extra important, to me.
Once, when I was in high school, I was really sick with bronchitis. I was in bed for days, and I read an Amy Tan book, which I am 99% sure was The Kitchen God’s Wife. In it, there were a ton of scenes about making dumplings, and eating dumplings. It was very sensual, and made me crave dumplings from my then favorite local Chinese restaurant. As soon as I got well, I ordered two plates of steamed dumplings and ate them all by myself.
Since then, I have given up eating meat. Sometimes I eat fish, but rarely. And one food item that is almost impossible to find is a vegetarian steamed dumpling. I’ve found a few, but they are never the same. The dough is usually off, or the filling is too loose and chunky, but either way the bottom line is I haven’t had a decent dumpling in over a decade.
I found a recipe online, and it blew me away. First of all, that delicious, soft sticky dough? I thought for sure it must be some kind of elaborate recipe, or a super complicated technique I could never hope to duplicate. But I read this recipe, and it lists for the dough only two ingredients: flour and water. Seriously? All these years and it was basically glue??? So of course after reading that I MUST try to make them.
And the filling, mostly ground pork, but everything else seemed basic enough – ginger, scallions, cabbage – I felt like I could do it.
So today, since we are in a blizzard and my kids are home, I convinced my daughter to help me (not difficult, she loves Asian food too) and we spent our snow day making dumplings. They came out really really good!
First of all, click the link (here) and look at those pictures. They are what blog pictures should be. Clear, colorful, pleasing to the eye. Keep those in your head while you browse the remainder of my post. My photos suck.
Okay, second of all, I altered the recipe. I used “gimme lean” ground beef style vegetarian meat substitute (shut up it’s not bad) instead of ground pork. And to add some fat, I threw in half a stick of butter. Also I only had the smooth cabbage, not the good napa kind. And I was out of dried shitake mushrooms, and not sure if I could substitute porcini, so I used some baby portabellas. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly.
My girl did a great job mixing! And so, of course I “let” her roll out the dough…
And I put them together. My dumpling pleating technique leaves a lot to be desired, but they sealed well and none popped open in cooking, so I guess even though they were not the most attractive dumplings, it was fine.
(Sorry again for the truly terrible photos.)
I used store-bought dipping sauce, which is kind of a cheat and in no way compares to the fantastic sauce they give out at the restaurant, but whatever. It wasn’t bad.
I saw a recipe for an alternative “sweet” dumpling, filled with apples! I might try that next 🙂 Happy snow day everyone!